by Loyce Braun
By April 1916, the Ebell offered classes in 12 departments including the perennial favorites Browning, Shakespeare, Parliamentary Law and Civics, and Bible Studies. Added that year was California History and Landmarks, which on April 13 presented “Reminiscences of John C. Fremont and Mrs. Fremont” by their daughter Elizabeth Fremont. It is startling to remember that Elizabeth and the Ebell members were but a generation away from the American occupation of the far West.
Departments were added to the Ebell’s offerings reflecting the members’ interests and capabilities and the changing tenor of the times. In 1917 Spanish and Voice Training were added. In 1918, with membership of 1,550 and the war in Europe, a new department of War Economics was added as well as The Red Cross and Social Welfare.
By 1921, with the war past and eager anticipation of better times ahead, the “Ebell Junior Auxiliary” was formed to encourage younger women – the daughters of members and their friends – to join and actively participate. Rapidly expanding their numbers and popularity, the highly attractive and energetic Juniors inspired a dramatic increase in the number of photographs attached to newspaper coverage of Ebell events. One piece from The Illustrated Daily News of April 1924 describes a Benefit Bridge Luncheon and Fashion Show at the Ambassador Hotel attended by hundreds of spectators. “The Ebell Juniors,” gushed the reporter, “attracted as much attention as the models.”
That Benefit and others were established to support a particular charity of the Juniors whereby the members “adopted” twelve especially needy children. In April of 1927 the Juniors put on a play, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, for the children of Ebell members and for the 12 “adopted” children. For that special 12 the Juniors had sewn new spring outfits – frilly dresses in spring colors for the girls and white “middy” suits trimmed in blue for the boys. In the photo from The Express accompanying the article, the “adopted” little girls are indistinguishable from the little daughters of the Juniors, but the little boys stand out poignantly in their white sailor suits.